The most important aspect of the budget process is to ensure there is an on-time state spending plan for next year and that it adequately serves the needs of New York state residents. This year’s process has involved a great deal of scrutiny by the joint conference committees and negotiations between both legislative houses and the governor. The additional transparency provided by the conference committees was a positive; however, the governor’s promise for a fully transparent process fell short when backroom negotiations took over the process late in the week.
There are many positives to this budget, including proposed measures that I championed to improve the business climate in upstate New York. Specifically, relief will come in the form of corporate franchise tax cuts, which will directly ease the burden felt by manufacturers across our region. These measures will save nearly $25 million this year and a projected $75 million next year. This is important because for every dollar invested in manufacturing, four dollars is returned to the economy; these tax cuts equate to more jobs and stronger communities.
Negotiations also resulted in the restoration of property tax rebates for eligible homeowners, landmark levels of funding for our schools and the restoration of health care aid that will help to ensure that the system continues to provide adequate care for people across New York state. Many of the agricultural cuts proposed by the governor have also been restored in an effort to help farmers cope with rising operating costs.
The downside of this budget is the lack of fiscal restraint and overall spending. As it stands now, this year’s budget is a record $122 billion with levels of debt that are unsustainable if spending continues to outpace inflation. I firmly believe that if we can adopt cost-saving measures such as Medicaid reform and find ways to improve efficiency in government, we can reinvest those savings to lower an already too high tax burden. This would allow our state to continue providing many of the well-intentioned programs it currently provides.